• Books Without Borders

    So I went down to the local Borders this past weekend, the one down at The Avenue in Marietta. It felt a bit like being part of a feeding frenzy. There were a lot of people there, a lot more than I had seen the last few times I was there, most of them trying to take advantage of the ongoing closeout. I feel bad seeing them go away. I was actually a semi-regular shopper there. While a lot of my casual reading is on my Kindle these days, I did tend to buy my bigger computer or travel books there because I liked being able to compare one book to another before buying it and that’s something I really can’t do on-line. Guess I can’t do that anymore. I suppose I can wander down to the Barnes & Nobel now, but they aren’t as convenient to me. Maybe they’ll open a store at The Avenue location. Or not. In my totally uninformed opinion that I get to express on the Internet I think Borders’ problems started when they started devoting so much of their floor space to DVDs and CDs. I don’t need to physically see those to compare one to the other to decide which to buy, and who buys physical media for music these days anymore anyway? I did buy a DVD from them as a gift this past Christmas but that was an exception to my usual rule. I suspect the same is true for most

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  • At the Array

    The beacons and the sweeping beams of the Interdiction Array glittered ahead of me, an out-of-place brightness against the faint dusting of the Void. I sat in the command chair, eyes half-focused on the view outside and half on the image on the overhead monitor. There, the Sun hung faintly against the darkness. Out here, at the edge of the Void, it was but a little brighter than the only slightly dimmer and slightly more distant stars beyond. Still, it was the only Sun I had ever seen in the sky and the thought that I would probably never see it again caused me to doubt once again the course I had sat myself upon. I rested my hands on the controls and noticed that they were shaking slightly. I took a few deep breaths to calm myself and the shaking diminished but did not cease. I sighed. I had been waiting out here too long. Unfastening my harness, I allowed myself to drift upwards out of the seat a bit and stretched. I then punched the heat button on the coffee pod and fumbled for a cigarette. I would have liked something stronger but after several days with no sleep I couldn’t take the chance of getting too relaxed. “At least I’m not talking to myself yet.” I thought, then winced. I had said it out loud. Oops. So much for that. I lit the cigarette and took a deep pull from it. The shaking faded and I released

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  • The Man Behind the Curtain

    When she arrived in the Emerald City, Dorothy and her companions were groomed, dressed and prepared for their encounter with the Great and Powerful Oz. Upon entering his chamber they were awed and frightened by the Great Oz floating before them, wreathed in smoke and flame. Of course, Toto then finds the man behind the curtain who is running the whole thing. Like a villain being unmasked by Scooby and the Gang, the Great and Powerful Oz is revealed to be just a con man from Kansas. The con man then gives her companions what they want and Dorthy is shown that she has the ability to go back home herself and she returns to Kansas. I have always wondered… why is this considered a happy ending? Sure, she is happy to be home at first, but she will wake up the next morning in her black-and-white world, knowing that the bright, colorful world she left behind was only a dream and that the only magic in the world was the work of a man hiding behind a curtain creating an illusion through smoke and mirrors. I’ve been thinking about Dorothy and that man because DragonCon is coming here to Atlanta next week. I’m planning on going this year, for the first time in around a decade. You would think that I, as a long time Atlanta resident and Science Fiction fan, would have been a regular attendee but that hasn’t been the case. Actually, I haven’t been to any

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  • The Morrowind Diaries – Chapter 3

    Chapter 3 – More of the Balmora Thieves Guild Last Seed 22 (Day 7) It was just before dawn when I awakened the next morning and I exited into the cool darkness. A few of the town guard were wandering on their patrols but otherwise I seemed to be the only one yet awake. I was walking towards the gate when I passed the eastern guard tower and thought it may be interesting to climb to the top and view the countryside from there. The lower level of the tower was empty except for some racks on the wall holding a few, basic weapons. I climbed to the next level and found a bunk room with a bored guard standing watch. The guard seemed a bit put out by my arrival but simply told me to be on my way. I was about to do so when something on the top of a closet caught my attention. It seemed to be the hilt of a sword; one of higher quality than any I had yet seen in Morrowind. Obviously it would not be possible for me to examine the sword more closely with the guard in the room so I descended the stairs to the first landing and considered my options. I decided that, while bored, the guard was likely to remain where he was for some time and that my ability at sneaking around was still too slight to allow me to enter the room undetected. I was about

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  • The Morrowind Diaries – Chapter 2

    Chapter 2 – First Explorations and the Balmora Thieves Guild Last Seed 17 (Day 2) Balmora, as seen from the Silt Strider platform The driver awoke me upon our arrival in Balmora. It was still dark and the sky was overcast but the rain had stopped and I could see a few lights in the town as its inhabitants went about their business. Thanking the driver, I descended into the streets of Balmora. A Dark Elf guard was idly keeping watch near the Strider stop and I asked him directions to the South Wall Corner Club. It turned out to be relatively nearby, just across the river to the east. The guard seemed to be in a talkative mood so I asked him more about Balmora. He told me that the town was the council seat of House Hlaalu, one of the three great Dunmer houses. He himself was part of House Hlaalu. He spoke of his desire to maintain order and keep the law and complained that crime seemed to be on the increase, even accusing the Balmora magistrate, one Nolus Atrius, of being on the take. With a sneer, he wondered how Larrius Varro, the Legion Champion from the Moonmoth Legion Fort who had sworn to fight corruption, would react to this. Thanking him for his information, I proceeded east across the river and through a narrow, dark tunnel through a row of buildings. Several crates were stacked in the tunnel and I briefly looked through them, finding

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  • Review – Singularity

    Singularity came out around a year ago but I didn’t get around to picking it up until the Steam sale earlier this summer. In the game you play Special Forces operative Captain Nathanial Renko. You and your partner are sent to the island of Kotorga-12, located off the coast of Russia, to investigate the source of an electromagnetic pulse which disabled an American spy satellite. A second pulse disables the helicopter in which you are riding and you must find your way through the island and uncover the mysteries there in order to escape. For the most part the game is a standard FPS. You run through a more-or-less linear collection of corridors and rooms while fighting enemies and the occasional boss. The game attempts to set itself apart through its story and through a series of puzzles involving something called a “Temporal Manipulation Device” or TMD. The story is interesting. After making your way to shore you soon find that during the Cold War the Soviet Union discovered a substance known as “Element 99” on Katorga-12 and a research installation was built there to uncover its properties. You do this by reading notes and listening to voice logs (left on large reel-to-reel tape recorders) as you make your way through the base. This is probably the most atmospheric part of the game, as you make your way though ruined labs and classrooms. You learn that even though Katorga-12 was presented as a workers paradise, in reality there was a

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  • Let’s Play! – Precursors (Parts 5 & 6)

    Part 5 Still on the planet Goldin, Treece Crichton demonstrates why he is a pilot and not a commando during a raid on the bandit’s base. He also continues his grand theft buggy streak, wonders how everyone keeps shooting at him without having any weapons, has an inordinate number of grenades thrown at him and finds out that it is apparently all Bush’s fault. Just another day in Precursors. Part 6 Having successfully defeated the bandit raiders, Treece’s next challenge is to track down the source of the psychotropic drug Dust. Along the way, he steals all the cola from a junkie’s house, collects vodka bottles from the dumpster, talks a smuggler into killing himself and speculates on the written language of the Amarn. He also gets a sniper rifle, visits the Pyramid temple and, oh yeah, finally gets his ship fixed! Finally. Another typical session of Precursors!

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  • The Road to Phaedra

    The sun had just gone down when I got to the town gates. Some places closed up tight at sunset but this one looked like it stayed open. There was almost no other traffic and the guard barely glanced in my direction as I passed, instead concentrating on using a torch to light the large beacon over the main entrance. The usual tourist spots were just inside, torchlight streaming from most of them though the burger and coffee joints had their typically anachronistically artificial lighting, the cost of which I suspected would be reflected in their prices. I went a bit further down the main road before taking a side street and finding a smaller place with a more subdued illumination scheme. Inside I found a seat at the end of the bar. The bartender was busy with a couple of guys in typical traveller garb but indicated that he had noticed me with a nod. I settled my pack at my feet while waiting and looked over his current customers. Their gear was a bit too neat and clean and coordinated a bit too well. New on the Road. I winced as the bartender handed them a couple of Buds. Really new then. Previous customers served, he grabbed a towel and came over to where I was sitting. “What’ll you have?” he asked, wiping the towel quickly across the bar in front of me. He glanced over my own clothing as he did. It was similar to what the

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  • The Morrowind Diaries – Chapter 1

    Chapter 1 – Arrival in Morrowind Each event is preceded by prophecy. But, without the hero, there is no event. Last Seed 16 (Day 1) I no longer remember why I was sent to prison. Perhaps I never knew. All my memories are of a long series of days, each like the other, stretching backwards for an unknown number of months or years. When confined to a cell one no longer measures time by the cycles of the sun or the changing of the seasons. Only the rituals of the arrival of food or the removal of the chamber pot exist to mark the passing of time. I ceased to count them long ago. My name is Aldarian, of the Redguard people. Unlike my kin, I was never one to seek the open battle of combat. Instead, I fought battles with my mind and my wits, an Agent who sought information and secrets which would allow me to advance myself and my clan. Perhaps that was my downfall. Perhaps I learned some bit of information that should have been kept secret. It would be impossible for me to know; I knew many such bits of information. Some I reported to my superiors while others I kept for myself. Perhaps I failed to keep one I should have. All I know is that they came for me one night and took me to the Imperial prison where I spent an unknown part of my life. Then, a few days ago, I

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  • Dark Fall: The Journal

    A Few Notes on Navigation Dark Fall’s interface should be obvious but there are a few minor quirks with it. The main issue is that the cursor sometimes takes a few moments to change shape when it passes over a hotspot on the screen. So, you may sometimes miss a path or an item of interest because the cursor failed to change when you passed it over the location in question. I was stuck for quite a while in the game because I missed a key item and I suspect the cursor was the problem. So, if the cursor doesn’t seem to be behaving the way I say it should, just move it around a bit. The Story So Far… On the evening of April 29 you receive a late-night phone call from your brother; an architect currently involved in a renovation project for an old, abandoned hotel and train station. It seems the hotel is supposedly haunted; there are even a couple of “ghost hunters” there. Well, now the ghost hunters have gone missing and it appears that your brother may be the next to disappear. So, you catch the next train to Dowerton to find out what you can. WalkthroughThe Station Platform If you follow the story, you will learn that quite a few people have disappeared in and around the hotel over the years, including seven people who vanished on the night of April 29, 1947. For reference, here are the important people to keep track of

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